The last marriage was over. It was time to move on.
Chris would later say I jumped too early. Not out of the last marriage -- into his bed. And, he would be right. But what he didn't know yet was that I was repeating old patterns. Using a new relationship to help crowbar myself out of the last one. Using the glee of newness to assuage the gloom of grief over death of the old relationship.
What can I say -- sure, it wasn't the best pattern. But it worked. Oh, I hear you laugh. How can I say it worked, if the new relationship failed as well? Yes, the pattern needs work. Perhaps there should be a cooling off period, man-free, following the failure of a relationship. And we should have nice weather in springtime too. Mother Nature and I both have things to work on.
Those were the thoughts flowing through my head that first morning after. Chris offered to make me a grilled cheese. It was a great suggestion -- I love grilled cheese. He sat me down on the sofa in the living room and walked down the breezeway to his kitchen area at its far end. He had music on -- a mix of Beatles, 70's rock, and newer indie rock. I'd never heard of Death Cab for Cutie before -- now I loved them, despite the odd name.
Chris buttered the bread with the soft butter on the counter. It was that nice, seedy, Poulsbo bread -- not too light, not too heavy. He put one piece on the hot electric grill and then pulled the big hunk of cheddar from the fridge and grated a bunch onto it. The second buttered piece went on top, and he shut the grill so both sides fried at once.
Once he got it started, he walked back over, well bounced, really, on his toes, a grin on his face as he sung along to the song his computer was playing. "I'll have to leave for work soon," he said, "but you can stay as long as you like. Take your time with the sandwich. Would you like some coffee?"
"Sure," I said.
"How do you like it?" he said.
"Make it like yours," I said. See -- I was still using that mimicry form of flattery that had stood me so well in high school. Like what they like -- or at least, try what they like -- if you do like it, go with it. Did it matter that I'd spent years schooling myself to prefer my coffee black, minimum calories and maximum caffeine effect? Heck no. Chris's chocolate flavored creamer and half-and-half went into my coffee and he handed me the mug, chattering about his job that day. I sipped it -- strong, thick from the creamer, sweet from the flavoring. Wow! It was half-candy, half-coffee.
Chris knew exactly how long it took to cook a grilled cheese on his grill -- he walked back over, opened the lid, and there was grilled cheese perfection. He picked it up, ripped a paper towel off the roll, and wrapped the grilled sandwich with the paper towel as he walked toward me. His economy of motion was like dancing -- flowing task into task with an ease of long practice.
"Aren't you having one?" I asked.
"No, I have to get going," he answered.
I sat there, chewing my grilled cheese. It was perfect -- the cheese melted through, not enough to drip out of the edges as the double-sided grill had gotten the edge cheese to sizzle into that hard edge that keeps it all in the sandwich. The rich flavor of the bread played well with the butter and cheddar, there was not a missed note to this sandwich. That was the best grilled cheese sandwich I'd ever had. And the first one a man had ever made for me.
I felt like a princess, sitting on Chris' sofa, listening to his mix list, saying goodbye to him around the bites of my sandwich as he headed out the door. It was a bit odd to be in his house with him not there -- that was another first. I sat and chewed that yummy sandwich. When it was done, I sat some more.
I wanted to sort out the feelings in my head, in my center. I felt off-balance. This was proof -- Zee and I had long since failed, I was moving on. This felt like a good man to me. He was interesting, hard working, and he filled his house with flowers -- vases everywhere. I was smitten.